You didn’t need to wait long for the overall outcome of the federal elections. Polls closed in British Columbia at 7.00pm on October 19 Pacific time. I was at the pharmacy. When I got home and tuned in to CBC, these were the standings:

7.40pm LIB 184, CON 100, NDP 28, BQ 9, GRN 0 (undecided 17)

The final results posted on the morning of October 20:

Oct 20: LIB 184, CON 99, NDP 44, BQ 10, GRN 1.

The 17 ridings that were undecided at 7.40pm were likely in BC. Of these, 16 went to NDP and 1 was for Elizabeth May, the Green leader on Vancouver Island.

This proves that you don’t have to measure everything to get a high degree of accuracy (up to 90%) so long as the sample is truly random. So for instance, after counting a random sample of 10% of the ballots, the leading candidate will most likely be the winning candidate.

Based on the overall election results, this is what we knew a mere 40 minutes after the polls closed:

  1. The Liberals won a majority and they would form government.
  2. Stephen Harper lost; Justin Trudeau will be the new Prime Minister.
  3. The Conservatives replaced the NDP as the official opposition.

If you were going to have a busy next day, you could go to bed then! So once again, Douglas Hubbard is proven right. In his book, How to Measure Anything, he argues that instead of getting a large enough sample, focus on getting truly random sample. With a truly random sample, you can have a accurate results with a small sample–and save time and money!

In fact, as the night progressed, the results became less accurate before returning to greater accuracy towards the end. Here’s my listing of the results as broadcasted by CBC from 7.40pm to 9.05pm when the speeches started. Of the 338 seats in the House of Commons:

  • 7.40pm LIB 184, CON 100, NDP 28, BQ 9, GRN 0 (undecided 17)
  • 7.45pm LIB 180, CON 102, NDP 32, BQ 10, GRN 1 (undecided 13)
  • 7.50pm LIB 185, CON 103, NDP 33, BQ 10, GRN 1 (undecided 6)
  • 7.55pm LIB 185, CON 104, NDP 36, BQ 10, GRN 1 (undecided 2)
  • 8.00pm LIB 186, CON 104, NDP 36, BQ 10, GRN 1 (undecided 1)
  • 8.05pm LIB 185, CON 106, NDP 35, BQ 10, GRN 1 (undecided 1)
  • 8.10pm LIB 187, CON 107, NDP 33, BQ 10, GRN 1 (undecided 0)
  • 8.15pm LIB 189, CON 106, NDP 32,BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.20pm LIB 188, CON 105, NDP 34,BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.25pm LIB 191, CON 104, NDP 32, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.30pm LIB 188, CON 103, NDP 36,BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.35pm LIB 189, CON 103, NDP 35, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.40pm LIB 189, CON 103, NDP 35, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.45pm LIB 187, CON 104, NDP 36, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.50pm LIB 189, CON 103, NDP 35, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 8.55pm LIB 190, CON 102, NDP 35, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 9.00pm LIB 188, CON 103, NDP 36, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 9.05pm LIB 188, CON 102, NDP 37, BQ 10, GRN 1
  • 9.10pm Concession and victory speeches started.